Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Resurrection of the Body

There is a macabre new exhibit en route to the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, BodyWorlds 2: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies. These are the plastic-infused bodies of people who donated their bodies to science, displayed in various stages of dissection.

This raises some interesting ethical questions. In the past, people have carefully disposed with the bodies of their dead because they believed that there is something beyond the merely physical about a human being. We have collectively abhorred cultures and individuals which have discarded or eaten their dead. Even now, we recognize some ethical discomfort over displaying centuries-old mummies. The Christian West has even frowned upon cremation, looking forward in its funerary traditions, to the resurrection of the body. So what's up with this display, reported to be one of the world's most popular traveling exhibits?

Is this the ultimate declaration that a human being is exclusively a bag of chemicals? Nothing more than matter? Is it an invitation to understand and to marvel at the wonder of the workings of God's creation? Is it merely voyeuristic? How would one express respect for the people who inhabited these bodies in an exhibit of this kind?

I'd be interested in your thoughts...


Mark Kodak said...

Is it really any more gruesome than touring a holocaust museum, or the catacombs in Paris, or better yet, the Sedlec ossuary, with its chapel adorned with human bones ?

At least this has both an artistic and a scientific aspect to it. I feel, it serves to indeed affirm how fearfully and wonderfully we are made.

Deb said...

I first saw the pictoral advertisement for this exhibit in the newspaper while I was eating my breakfast early one morning. I almost got sick; and although I couldn't quite verbalize why, it just didn't seem right. I have no inclination to see it, and can 'affirm how fearfully and wonderfully we are made' in other ways.

Mark Kodak said...

Would I be able to learn just as much from books or
models of the human anatomy?

The unique use of authentic specimens shows the details
of disease, physiology, and anatomy in a way that cannot
be shown with models, textbooks, or photos. In addition,
the exhibition allows visitors to understand that each and
every body has its own unique features, even on the inside.
The experience in other cities has shown that with the
Anatomical Sections and Prenatal Development exhibits
visitors are drawn to real specimens in a way that they are
not to plastic models.

That is a quote from their literature. It made me wonder how different it is from visceral photographs I have seen in modern physiology books as well.

I think the exhibit might also help us to appreciate the enormously holy task of the doctor and the surgeon.

I also wonder how many who witness the plastinated woman with the fetus in her womb might possibly rethink the idea of abortion.

Carol said...

That's just plain gross. Reminds me of having to dissect a cadavre in nursing A&P. [shudder]

I think it's natural to want to preserve the remains in as pristine a condition as possible. God, however, and resurrect a body no matter what condition it is in. And He will. It's just a tent. We'll get new bodies in the New Jerusalem, anyway.

prairie girl said...

I have not seen this exhibit but my husband, son, daughter, and son-in-law saw it while it was in Chicago.

Their response was that it was unbelievable and breath-taking. My 18 year old son's observation was that it was overwhelmingly pro-life, pro-Creator in that it created in him an awed response to God's handiwork.

I, too, had some ethical questions as I checked it out online and as I read about the creator, whose relatives had been involved in the concentration camps in Europe during the war. That connection really bothered me.


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